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November is by far my favorite month of the year. It’s sort of bittersweet, but that is why I like it. The darkness lengthens, the trees turn, the air becomes chilled. And yet there is a special light and warmth as well. The warm hues of autumn leaves and gourds and chrysanthemums. The golden tone of the slanting sunlight. All the abundance and togetherness and festivities–not to mention smells and tastes–of the Thanksgiving feast. Wearing sweaters and fleecy pajamas for the first time in months. I appreciate and cherish these things more with each passing year!
I turned 36 this month, and that too was bittersweet. On one hand, I feel disappointment because my life at this age is nothing like how I always hoped and anticipated. I thought that surely by this time, I would be married and have at least a couple of children and a house all our own. Maybe I would even be able to leave the workforce to tend to the home and educate the children. I fully expected to be living a normal, respectable, successful life. But things have not turned out that way. In some ways, I feel like I have not made any progress at all from where I was ten years ago… only I’ve lost people and things that made up so much of the joy I had ten years ago.
But I’ve also gained important things: faith, maturity, and wisdom. And the older I get, the more I cherish the important things and the less I care about unimportant things, such as what people think or say about me, or how the world measures what is normal, respectable, and successful. The older I get, the more content (but not complacent) I become. And that is very liberating!
Also this month was Election Day in the United States, and it included the biggest election of all, the presidential election. I did my civic duty as a voter, and did so proudly and gratefully. But on the whole, I don’t put too much stock in government and politics. There is no form of worldly government that can make me entirely secure and confident. There is no form of worldly government that can make people happy. Happiness and security and confidence come from the heavenly kingdom and its Lord. This is not to say that the election didn’t impact me. It impacted me in that it revealed, yet again, how very polarized this nation is. No matter who won the most votes, nearly half the nation was going to feel defeated and frustrated and defiant. That’s not a good thing, and I don’t envy the president one bit. I also don’t much envy those who put him in office, for the burden of what happens in the next four years is going to be largely upon them.
But as for me, I shall continue doing what I always do and putting my trust and hope where I always put them, in my King and my God. My citizenship and good standing in His kingdom will always come first. Funny how folks in this country used to be suspicious of Catholics and say that Catholics could never be good Americans because they give their primary allegiance to the Vatican. The Vatican?! Boy, they didn’t know the half of it! They thought much too lowly and safely and mundanely of us. For we Catholics don’t just give our primary allegiance to another worldly kingdom, but to a completely otherworldly kingdom. We Catholics are far more bold and radical than our fellow citizens have ever given us credit for. The rather ironic part is that our allegiance to God and His kingdom actually entail being loyal and responsible to our earthly homes and leaders (or at least their offices). In the spirit of true charity, we love and serve our nation and respect our leaders out of love for God and Heaven. To adapt the famous last words of St. Thomas More, “I am the Republic’s good servant, but God’s first.”
November increases my tendency to wax poetic and philosophic.
For now, I am going to put aside my computer and go fix myself a nightcap of hot chocolate blended with a little tot of whiskey.
I haven’t read too much of his work–I didn’t realize how much fiction he has written. I’ve read some of his writings about St. Thomas Aquinas and Thomism, and some miscellaneous articles. Even so, I can tell he was a good thinker and teacher, and a good Catholic.
May God grant him peaceful rest, and comfort and to his family and friends.
I hope everybody is having a wonderful Christmastide, and wish you a very happy and blessed new year!
I had a lovely visit with my beloved family in Jacksonville, Florida. I attended Christmas Day Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Jacksonville. It’s an old church, and probably the most beautiful church in which I have attended Mass–the stained glass windows were stunning, and they had large, very beautiful Stations of the Cross. Here is a photo that shows some of the windows around the altar:
After Mass, I helped my mom and sister prepare our Christmas dinner, we exchanged gifts, and then ate. It was a beautiful day, perfectly befitting the birthday of our Savior.
Now the new year has begun, beginning with the beautiful Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God! It is comforting to begin the year knowing that we are secure in the love of God and Mary, and that they will see us through, come what may.
Here at home, I’ve been busy doing my new year’s cleaning and de-cluttering. I’m always amazed by how many things I have around that are just taking up space and gathering dust. It’s always liberating to get rid of stuff, keeping only things that are meaningful, important, and/or useful… to clean things and make them bright… to do some re-arranging of spaces. It gives me a feeling of peace and pride in my home, simple (almost spartan) though it is. I hope I can buy some more furniture this year! I did just make my last car payment (YAY!!!) so maybe I can put some of that money aside for furniture.
I received my Patron Saint for 2010 from The Pious Sodality of Church Ladies. This year’s Patron Saint is:
St John Neumann
Pray for the Church in America
And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. [Gal 6, 9]
I think this is a perfect Patron Saint for me–and for the Church in this country! He did so much to nurture, grow, and lead the Church in the U.S., and was the first American man to be canonized. A Catholic immigrant himself (having been born and grown up in Bohemia), he was ordained in this country, and lived and worked here for the rest of his life, building churches and schools for his fellow Catholic immigrants. I think I shall try to visit his national shrine in Philadelphia this year!
I have not forgotten my previous Patron Saints of the Year, St. Martha and St. Jason. They are still a positive influence on my life… especially my home life and relationships with family and friends. I’m sure that will always be true, and thank God for it! And now, this year, I will perhaps gain a better outlook on my larger home, America.
I look forward to seeing what this new year has in store. I hope it contains lots of happiness, blessings, and growth for you and for me!
For now, I must get back to my cleaning!
What is the very first step to winning any war? Is it not simply to know that you are war?
Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, knows it and doesn’t hesitate to say it. In April, he made it the theme of his address to the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention:
We are at war.
Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival any time in the past.
But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors – members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages).
But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.
He is refreshingly frank about what it means and what it costs to wage this war:
What will happen to us if we take up this war in faithfulness?
Do you really want to know? You will be hated by some powerful people. You may be rejected by those whose approval you most desire. You will be loved and supported by some and this will be a wonderful encouragement. You will be misunderstood by many – and this can be very painful. After you have suffered a little in your battle, some will tell you that you have done nothing – or that you have done it the wrong way.
Yes, if you push – others will “push back.” We should always be very careful to obey the law. But, regardless, some will threaten you with legal action, and law suits cost money and you may suffer that difficult hardship. In the end, dear friends, if we err let it be on the side of life. Life! 4000 human lives a day!
What if I suffer greatly trying to change this tragic trajectory – through prayerful, legal, peaceful means? It is in God’s hands, and you and I are warriors for the victory of life. The stakes in terms of human life are high. The stakes in terms of human souls are even higher.
Fortunately, he also gives very practical and encouraging advice on how to survive:
How do we arm ourselves for what is first and foremost a supernatural war?
First: Unless we are living in God’s life we should not go near this battle. I don’t care if you are the strongest and most brilliant and clever person on the planet. The devil – as he has shown over and over again – will turn you inside out. If you are not fortified by the sacraments – frequent confession and worthy Holy Communion – you cannot succeed in an ultimately supernatural battle. We must live – no longer ourselves – but Christ in us. Be always in the state of grace.
Pray. Be a prayer warrior. One modern day saint said when you are going out to try to change someone’s heart determine to make your effort 80 % prayer and 20% words or actions. Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and allow God to guide you. Pray that you will be a warrior of faithfulness and love and mercy. Remember that God often chooses the foolish to shame those who are clever.
Use the symbols and instruments of our devotion. Arm yourself with the rosary. Protect yourself with the scapular or a blessed medal. Ask for a blessing as a sign of unity in the Church in what we do: unity with the Holy Father, with your bishop, with your pastor. What I am supposed to do as bishop (teach and lead, and sanctify) I must, in turn, delegate in proper measure to my pastors. They, in turn, need you as soldiers.
Don’t worry very much about numbers. If you read the accounts of the Old Testament battles, over and over again God used a tiny misfit army to overthrow a legion 1000 times its size. In this way it is so much clearer that God is fighting the battle. We are only His instruments.
I especially like this last point about numbers. And the part about God using the foolish to shame the clever. That inspires a bit more confidence in me! ;)
Bishop Finn took up this emphasis on warfare again in responding to Debacle Day. From an interview with The Catholic Key:
As a country we want to see an end to racial prejudice. We want a more secure peace in the world. We want sound economic justice for people. So we can’t give up on working with the administration.
But we’re fighting for our lives – literally. We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly-formed conscientious difference with public policy. We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a “wait and see” approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe v’ Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas. I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us. If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why.
The Catholic Key Blog, by the way, is probably the best source for keeping up with this extremely active and outspoken bishop, as well as other news and commentary.
He is definitely a man to watch! God bless him!
The Associated Press (AP) has an exclusive interview with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who will be installed as Archbishop of New York this week. Here is an excerpt, with my emphases:
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Archbishop-designate Timothy Dolan said Monday, on the eve of his installation, that he will challenge the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is unenlightened because it opposes gay marriage and abortion.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Dolan said he wants to restore pride in being Catholic, especially given the damage the church endured in the clergy sex abuse scandal, which he called a continuing source of shame.
“One would hope that through education and through the joy that we give by our lives that people will begin to see that these fears and this skepticism we have about the church are unwarranted,” Dolan said.
He said Catholics also must defend themselves against bias, which he said was still deeply ingrained in American culture.
“Periodically, we Catholics have to stand up and say, `Enough,’” he said. “The church as a whole still calls out to what is noble in us.”
Sounds very promising to me! I hope Archbp. Dolan can light a nice fire under Catholic Americans. It’s way overdue!
I like how he encourages us to give witness to the truth and goodness of our Church by “the joy that we give by our lives.” I think that in this world, joy is one of the most powerful evangelization tools. We live among so much sadness, despair, and discouragement. Joy gets people’s attention.
I may not always succeed, but I do try to share with others the joy that my faith gives me. People tell me that my face lights up when I talk about my faith. It doesn’t matter what else may be going on in my life. And heaven knows there’s been a lot. But I still find joy in my faith. And I hope that it comes across and inspires people.
Cardinal George of Chicago has issued a statement calling for continued protection of the conscience rights of medical personnel and institutions who object to being involved with abortion. Pres. Obama wants to start stripping away this protection by rescinding regulations recently implemented by George Bush.
Obviously, this would affect many Catholic medical workers and hospitals. Many of these people have already put themselves on the line for their Catholic pro-life practices. In our society, it takes a true act of courage and personal integrity for a doctor or other health-care provider to stand by his or her values when they are so counter-cultural and make lots of people resentful or angry. We need to support them at all times, but right now more than ever.
I also think that anybody who thinks it would stop with pro-life medical workers is fooling themselves. Why should it stop there? If you can strip away protections of conscience rights, why not just scrap conscience rights altogether? Is anything worth having that’s not worth protecting? And if that succeeds with one group of people in society, why not impose it on everybody in society?
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services is accepting public comment on this proposed rescinding of conscience rights protection through 9 April 2009. Here is an easy, fast way to send a comment. You can send the message they provide, which is very good, or you can write your own.
Here is a video of the cardinal’s statement:
And here is the text of the statement:
Hello. I am Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’d like to take a moment to speak about two principles or ideas that have been basic to life in our country: religious liberty and the freedom of personal conscience.
On Friday afternoon, February 27, the Obama Administration placed on a federal website the news that it intends to remove a conscience protection rule for the Department of Health and Human Services. That rule is one part of the range of legal protections for health care workers – for doctors, nurses and others – who have objections in conscience to being involved in abortion and other killing procedures that are against how they live their faith I God.
As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism. Respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression. No government should come between an individual person and God – that’s what America is supposed to be about. This is the true common ground for us as Americans. We therefore need legal protection for freedom of conscience and of religion – including freedom for religious health care institutions to be true to themselves.
Conscientious objection against many actions is a part of our life. We have a conscientious objection against war for those who cannot fight, even though it’s good to defend your country. We have a conscientious objection for doctors against being involved in administering the death penalty. Why shouldn’t our government and our legal system permit conscientious objection to a morally bad action, the killing of babies in their mother’s womb? People understand what really happens in an abortion and in related procedures – a living member of the human family is killed – that’s what it’s all about – and no one should be forced by the government to act as though he or she were blind to this reality.
I ask you please to let the government know that you want conscience protections to remain strongly in place. In particular, let the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington know that you stand for the protection of conscience, especially now for those who provide the health care services so necessary for a good society. Thank you and God bless you.
Please speak up! And, as always, pray, fast, offer acts of penance and reparation. We Catholics can do things that your typical activist can’t–we can wage spiritual warfare! And we must do so to the best and fullest of our ability. For our own sakes, and for the sakes of our nation and world.
[Updated because I accidentally published this before I was finished with it. I probably shouldn't blog so late at night!]
Cardinal Stafford pulled no punches in talking about President-Elect Obama, his extremism on abortion, and what it all means for America and for Catholics. I found this article via Fr. Z. This is an excerpt, with my emphases:
His Eminence James Francis Cardinal Stafford criticized President-elect Barack Obama as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,“ and said he campaigned on an “extremist anti-life platform,” Thursday night in Keane Auditorium during his lecture “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul.“
“Because man is a sacred element of secular life,” Stafford remarked, “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.”
“For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,” Stafford said, comparing America’s future with Obama as president to Jesus’ agony in the garden. “On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake.”
Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must deal with the “hot, angry tears of betrayal” by beginning a new sentiment where one is “with Jesus, sick because of love.”
The lecture, hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, pertained to Humanae Vitae, a papal encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 and celebrating its 40 anniversary this year.
The article is… meh. Much more informative is the actual audio from that section of Cardinal Stafford’s speech, although I don’t think it gives the full picture, either. Here are some excerpts from that audio, transcribed by me:
Under all of that grace and charm [of Obama], there is a tautness of will, a clenched jaw, a constant–a state of constant alertness to detect and resist any external influence which might threaten his independence. A state of alertness? Yes, that is putting it mildly. [A section I can't make out clearly, but something about Obama carrying out "operations against the enemy city."]
Here, the cardinal turns to Obama’s July 2007 address to Planned Parenthood: transforming America, signing FOCA, Roe v. Wade, not wanting his daughters to be “punished with pregnancy,” and his refusal to yield on the issue of abortion. Then he continues:
[Obama's] rhetoric is post-modernist and marks an agenda and ambition that are aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic. Catholics weep over these words. We weep over the violence concealed behind the rhetoric of our young president-to-be. What should we do with our hot, angry tears of betrayal? First: our tears are agonistic. We must acknowledge that. For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden.
First: Contrary to what the article-writer would have us believe, the cardinal is not making a personal attack on Obama himself, but rather responding to Obama’s appearance, his rhetoric, his statements, and the sort of agenda suggested by them. He is not judging the man’s soul, but only externals. As I said yesterday, there is a difference. We absolutely can and must think critically about things like appearance, rhetoric, statements, and agenda; that doesn’t mean we hate or want to hurt the person underneath it all.
Second: I think that Obama’s agenda, as it has been presented to date, does look to be aggressive, disruptive, and, yes, even apocalyptic. Aggressive and disruptive because it threatens to destroy existing laws restricting abortion, as well as the states’ sovereignty, the states’ rights to enact such restrictions. It also threatens the rights of citizens to not have any part in aborting children. I think especially of Catholic and other religious medical practitioners who refuse to perform abortions. I think of all citizens who don’t want to fund abortion. Obama’s agenda seems like it may submit freedom of religion to freedom of abortion. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that sounds pretty apocalyptic. Religious freedom has been held precious in this country since its foundation, and suddenly, we’re going to have a president who possibly wants to trash it in favor of a practice most citizens find intrinsically evil, a practice we cannot in good conscience tolerate? Right, nothing horrible could come out of that situation! A little persecution here and there, what could it harm?
Third: Cardinal Stafford senses something warlike about Obama, where abortion is concerned. Obama seems to be in a guarded state of “wartime consciousness,” to borrow a phrase from Peter Kreeft. And if Obama is in wartime consciousness over abortion, then we Catholics had very well better be too! This is how Kreeft describes the wartime consciousness we must have:
… a very practical alertness and attention and also a very practical sense of perspective and sense of values. Little things no longer loom so large, and large things (life and death) no longer seem so little and far away. No one complains about lumpy beds on a battlefield or bleats about their “sexual needs” or worries about their stock options. (How to Win the Culture War, InterVarsity Press, 2002, p. 22)
In other words, we need to be alert, get our priorities straight, and generally get serious!
Now, I ask you, what better place for us to do all that than the Garden of Gethsemane? I think that most practicing Catholics already “know that garden” pretty well. I don’t think it will be particularly new territory for us. But I do think it is going to become much more central and constant in our lives in the near future.
Fourth: I think it very odd that the cardinal suggests that Catholics are being betrayed by Obama. We are not being betrayed by Obama. We’ve known since long before 4 November that Obama holds an extreme stance on abortion. Maybe I’m too cynical, but I really believe that all Catholics have known that all along, and that some of them have simply chosen to disregard it. And that’s the betrayal.
Our betrayal comes from our fellow Catholics, or so-called Catholics. And it’s not just from people like Biden, Pelosi, the Kennedys, Kerry, Giuliani, et al. There’s been plenty of betrayal among the ranks of the clergy, as well as among the normal people in the pews. The election is just one latest indicator of that, because it’s not just a recent betrayal. It’s been building up for a long time–40 years now, if we look to the Humanae Vitae cataclysm as the starting point.
That’s the betrayal. It’s massive and pervasive. And Catholics are starting to realize that we’ve suffered too much betrayal, for too long, and amidst too much silence from the hierarchy. That is the cause of our agony!
It’s not that Catholics are going to start arriving at the the Garden… it’s that we’re going to wake up and cast off our sleep. And the question then is going to be: What do we do now? What will we make of this experience? Are we just going to roll over and go back to sleep? Are we going to cower and whimper like lost puppies? Or are we going to use it to collect ourselves and prepare ourselves to possibly confront a very serious, determined, and powerful opponent over the single most important issue there is in our age? And, perhaps more importantly, are we going to confront the traitors in our midst? What are they going to do–are they going to be with us or not? I think it may be a little of both: some will draw closer to us, while others will flee.
Here’s the cold, hard fact: unless Obama changes his stance on abortion, faithful Catholics are going to be in quite a difficult situation… strained relationships with our nation’s leader… even more strained relationships with some of our brethren. And we’ll be very lucky if “strained relationships” doesn’t turn out to be a gross understatement.
As always, there is so much uncertainty. I would love to be proven wrong about Obama–I’m sure Cardinal Stafford would, too, and so would all of us who feel uneasy about him and his plans for our country. I pray every day that we will be proven wrong. I pray every day for him. I want to like him and be loyal to him and have him on my side.
But if I’m not proven wrong, then I would much rather be in Gethsemane, and even hanging on Calvary, with Christ and my fellow Catholics. That’s one thing I am certain of.
It sure has been a crazy week. I’m exhausted!
I do want to recommend a couple of excellent items I found over at Father Z’s place:
Both are very much worth reading.
Boy, that Bishop Finn… he just hasn’t been letting up! God bless him for it! We need men like him–real men, real fathers, real shepherds, real generals in the spiritual war. Only they will be able get Catholic Americans through the tough times that likely lay ahead. Here at home, I am hoping to hear more from our two Bishop Kevins, either singly or jointly. I’m confident they’ll see us through, despite the massive throngs of furious protesters (not!).
I’m really interested to see how things play out with the supposedly pro-life Catholic supporters of Obama. They’ve protested their pro-life Catholic-ness all the way, despite acting contrary to the teachings of the bishops. Are they now going to join in the good fight, side by side with their fellow Catholics, even if it means squarely opposing their candidate? Are they going to conveniently ditch the pro-life Catholic label now that they’ve got their man in office, and be indifferent to the confusion, scandal, and deep wounds they’ve wrought in the Church? Basically–are they going to come out for us or against us? I think it’s beyond time for them to unequivocally choose a side. No more contriving to be both with us and against us at the same time! And we will need the bishops to hold them to it, one way or the other.
Interesting times ahead, I’m sure!
I’m off to slumber now.
Below is the statement in full. I think it’s a good summary of the issues, a brief, straightforward way of keeping these matters at the front of people’s minds; issues this important cannot be emphasized and reiterated too much. And statements from our bishops are always needed and desired. There will always be people who don’t listen, but there will also always be people who do. I’m proud of my local bishops for speaking out!
All emphases are in the original. I found it at the Catholic Pro-Life Committee site.
from Bishop Kevin Farrell and Bishop Kevin Vann
to the Faithful of the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth
October 8, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The month of October is Respect Life Month in our churches. It is a time in which we as Catholics are called to reflect upon the gift of life that has been entrusted to us by our Creator and to focus our attention on the many attacks against human life that exist in our culture today. This year, Respect Life Month takes on a more profound meaning as we face an election in our country where the protection of human life itself, particularly that of the unborn, is very much at stake. Therefore, as your Bishops, we wish to take this opportunity to provide clear guidance on the proper formation of conscience concerning voting as faithful Catholics and to articulate the Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching on life issues as they relate to other issues of concern.
The Church teaches that all Catholics should participate as “faithful citizens” in the public square, especially through our voice in the voting booth, and that we have the responsibility to treat the decision for whom we will vote for with profound moral seriousness. We must approach the right and duty to vote with a properly formed and informed conscience in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Last November, the Bishops of the United States issued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in which we and our brother Bishops issued clear moral guidelines to aid the faithful in proper formation of conscience with regard to the many issues we face in our nation today. Through this joint statement to the faithful of Dallas and Fort Worth, we seek to briefly summarize the key points and dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation concerning this teaching.
1. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly teaches that not all issues have the same moral equivalence. Some issues involve “intrinsic evils”; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified. Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and “marriages”, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly states:
“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil’ actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, ‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.” (22)
2. The destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good. As Pope John Paul II clearly states:
“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good… It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop…” (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101)
3. Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the “only issue” – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 48 million innocent lives have been lost. Each year in our nation more than one million lives are lost through legalized abortion. Countless other lives are also lost through embryonic stem cell research. In the coming months our nation will once again elect our political leaders. This electoral cycle affords us an opportunity to promote the culture of life in our nation. As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America, limiting it as much as we can until it is finally abolished.
4. As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror. As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about. There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of “prudential judgment.” But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.”
As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states:
“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (28)
5. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil – even when the voter does not agree with the candidate’s position on that evil. The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:
a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,
b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.
To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.
6. In conclusion, as stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation. As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day. With knowledge of the Church’s teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils. May God bless you.
Faithfully in Christ,
|Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell
Bishop of Dallas
|Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann
Bishop of Fort Worth